Searing heat wave has a chilling effect Offices: Nonstop air conditioning is creating frigid conditions in some Baltimore offices, forcing shivering workers to keep layers of clothes handy.

July 24, 1998|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Baby, it's cold inside.

While temperatures were sweltering outside, indoor temperatures plummeted to chilly, goose-bump levels in many air-conditioned offices around town this week. Dressing for success became an exercise in wearing layers of clothing that could be shed by degrees.

"It is really cold in my office," said Jill Taylor, a communications manager at downtown's T. Rowe Price who quickly slipped off her beige jacket as she stepped outside and into the heat. "I like to get out every day at lunch, so I wear sleeveless underneath."

It's a quandary office workers continue to face even as temperatures ease from midweek's searing heat. Yesterday's high was 93 degrees compared with Wednesday's peak of 99 degrees -- the summer's hottest day so far.

"There is a significant difference," said Andy Stern, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "Ninety-nine is more taxing on the body. We consider [yesterday] a typical July day."

The air quality also improved yesterday with a code yellow, or moderate rating, compared with Wednesday's orange, or moderately unhealthy rating, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment. Weather forecasters say today's high is expected to be a pleasant 86 degrees.

But Baltimoreans know the break in the sticky weather is temporary. Most workers continue to brace for hot days and brisk indoor temperatures while air conditioners keep cranking.

"There are actually people in my office with heaters on because it's so cold," said Phyllis Gaertner, an executive assistant for commercial developers P. F. O'Brecht and Son in Timonium. "You just can't please everyone with the weather."

Just ask the tellers at First Union Bank in Towson. While most of them were quite comfortable in their work environment this week, employee Akram Annous felt the chill seeping through.

"I'm more of a complainer," admits Annous, who went home Tuesday at lunchtime to get a bulky, blue wool sweater. "If you're in here for a little while, it's constant cold."

Several Baltimore County office workers agreed that sweaters -- a seeming anomaly in the blistering heat -- are mandatory these days.

"I bring a cardigan all the time," said Rachel Chico, 21, of Randallstown, who works in the county land acquisitions bureau and was eating in the courthouse plaza with colleagues this week. "I come outside to defrost."

Haritiana Rakotomamonjy, slinging a jacket over her shoulder as she walked along Pratt Street, also was seeking a reprieve from the arctic indoor blasts this week.

"I love this weather. I feel good when it is hot," said the Madagascar native, who is an intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "In these buildings, the air conditioning is always too much."

A Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman offered a explanation for cool office climates. "It may be that this time of year it is so hot, the air conditioning seems colder," said Jessica Brown.

On a quick lunch break, Jerri Peyton, an assistant public defender, came prepared for the pervasive chill at Towson Commons on York Road. Carrying a brown blazer, she acknowledged, "It's freezing cold inside."

Peyton said the county's frigid courtrooms are another reason to think sleeves, even during a heat wave.

But even in Wednesday's 99-degree heat, attorneys Ward Coe and Howard Feldman of Whiteford, Taylor and Preston on St. pTC Paul Street, headed to the Inner Harbor pavilions for lunch in dress shirts and properly knotted ties. They even brought their suit jackets, just because they always do.

"We were just commenting on the absurdity of it," said Coe, forehead glistening in the sweltering sun. "We're crazy."

Pub Date: 7/24/98

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